Outdated, ugly laminate countertop making you cringe? Think twice before grabbing the crowbar for an impromptu demolition session! Laminate can be salvaged with paint, but only if you do it right. The key to a professional and long-lasting finish is careful surface preparation -- and lots of patience.
Skill Level: Beginner and up
Cost: About $50. Cost will vary depending on the size of your countertop and whether or not you already own basic painting supplies.
Time Investment: The sheer number of coats required to paint over laminate means a lot of drying time...which, in turn, means the work must be spread out over the course of about a week. The amount of time spent sanding and painting will depend on the amount of laminate you wish to cover.
Additionally, this project will require patience both from you, the DIYer, and your entire family while the kitchen or bathroom countertop is out of commission during the curing process.
Supplies: Fine grit 180 or 220 sandpaper, vacuum cleaner and/or dust pan and brush, soft cloth, painter's tape, primer, paint, and clear acrylic or oil-based polyurethane. Unless you're using spray paints, you will also need a small angled paintbrush, a small or medium-sized roller and a paint tray.
Drop cloths are always useful, but they're a must-have if you are spray painting indoors. If you choose oil-based products, you'll need plenty of turpentine and rags for cleanup as well. Also, use a fan to improve ventilation if you're working in an enclosed space.
Oil or Acrylic? How to Choose.
Read the instructions carefully for each product before you buy. Acrylic (latex) is easiest to work with and cleans up with water. On the other hand, oil paints adhere better to ultra-smooth surfaces like laminate. They resist mildew more effectively, too.
Bear in mind, also, you can't paint over an oil-based paint or primer with acrylic. If you do select acrylic primers and paints, you'll want to finish with topcoats of glossy clear acrylic. DIYers using oil-based primer and paint, however, should use oil-based polyurethane to finish.
For this how-to, let's assume we've chosen oil-based products.
1. Surface Preparation. Clean the countertop thoroughly with hot water and a little detergent to remove surface dirt and oils. Allow to dry completely. Next, sand lightly but evenly. Your goal here is to distress the top layer just enough to remove the sheen and encourage paint adhesion. (If the colored top layer is disappearing from sight, you're pressing too hard!)
Brush or vacuum, then wipe thoroughly with a damp cloth to eliminate remaining dust. Let dry then apply painter's tape around all edges to protect walls and mirrors.
2. Prime. Apply a quality oil-based primer. Begin by cutting in the edges and corners with the angled paintbrush. Next, cover the flat surface area using the medium-sized roller for smooth, even coverage. Alternatively, you may choose a spray-on primer.
Two coats of primer are usually recommended, but remember to allow the first coat to dry completely before starting on the second. The length of time required depends on the product, so check the label.
Tip: Consider using a no-sand primer. Standard primers work just fine and are low-cost. Certain specialty products, however, bond with the painted surface and eliminate the need for sanding, which -- let's face it -- is tedious and time-consuming.
B-I-N Shellac Base Primer, for example, dries quickly and can be painted over with oil or latex paint. Another product worth considering: Krylon Fusion for Plastic spray primer.
3. Paint. Once the second coat of primer is completely dry, it's time for the fun part. Whether you opted for a vibrant hue, a relaxing neutral or classic white, apply at least two coats of oil-based paint: a base coat and a top coat. Once again, you'll need to cut in the edges with your paintbrush before starting with the roller.
Tip: Get creative! Suburban Cottage blogger, AnNicole, used paint effects to makeover her dated burgundy bathroom countertop. She skillfully applied three creamy stone-like shades in succession to make the surface resemble travertine.
For a less time-consuming choice, consider textured spray paint. Tamra, of the blog Blissfully Domestic, chose a faux stone spray and got a gorgeous, realistic finish for her kitchen countertop. (Don't forget, though: textured paint will retain a bit of a bumpy finish even after a few coats of polyurethane. If you can't live with that, stick with regular paint.)
4. Finish. Protect your paint job with 3 or 4 coats of a clear, high-gloss topcoat. Once again, the product you choose will depend on whether your previous coats were acrylic or oil-based. Either way, ensure the surface is completely clear of dust before beginning. Allow plenty of drying time between coats and – most importantly – do not sand between coats.
5. Wait. Allow two or three weeks for the surface to cure completely. Yes, that's a long time and it may be very inconvenient. On the other hand, new countertops can easily cost $1,000 (if not much more), yet still involve weeks of waiting. So endure the curing process and keep reminding yourself how much money you're saving by DIYing it!
Care: Those who have painted their laminate countertops and blogged about it report the finish is very durable. At the same time, a painted surface will never be as tough as the original laminate. Keep your counter as clean and dry as possible and never leave puddles of water or any other liquid standing on the surface.
Take care to keep pots and pans off the countertop altogether. Alternatively, place them on hand towels or potholders to prevent scratches and dents. Never place hot pots and pans (or, in the bathroom, hot hair dryers or other styling appliances) directly on your countertop either. Always use a cutting board for food preparation.
And remember, never clean your painted countertop with abrasive cleaners or cleaning pads.
Check out these laminate countertops that you won't want to paint! Watch this video: